It happens every year around the holidays. Amid the frenzy of gift-buying and holiday parties, companies try to cut expenses before the end of the fourth quarter and adjust for current and anticipated demand. All too often, those complex financial calculations end in so mething simple and joyless – layoffs.

This year, for example, only a week after Thanksgiving jobs were being shed. LivingSocial Inc. confirmed Nov. 29 that it was laying off some 400 employees, including roughly 160 in the District. A week later, McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. announced it was cutting 700 jobs, about half of them in the Washington area. SAIC had counted nearly 15,000 local employees, making it the Washington region’s sixth-largest employer.

Workers laid off during the distracting holiday season are typically unprepared to begin a job hunt. And generally, getting hired in December is difficult, making January a key month for job seekers.

The first quarter, in particular, is when many companies begin to make hiring decisions again. So here are some tips from local experts in career consulting and outplacement to help laid-off workers get a step ahead in a painful process.

○ Keep any anger, frustration or negative feelings at home.
You have a right to these feelings, but you need to have a positive outlook at work, says Jason Levin, a career and outplacement coach at Ready, Set, Launch LLC. Be professional on the way out. That will help you get in another door more often than disparaging your former employer will.

○ Send handwritten notes thanking people you worked with.
Levin suggests writing one or two things you have learned from them. “They’ll remember that,” he says. Also, ask the same group of colleagues if they could serve as a references for any future offers you get.

○ Consider pursuing your “dream job” in addition to seeking positions similar to those you have held.
Perhaps this is the perfect chance to ditch the desk job you don’t like and go for the career that’s haunted the back of your mind. “Give yourself some time to reassess your career and determine what you want to do next,” says David Miles, managing partner of OI Partners-The Miles LeHane Cos. “Conduct a thorough career checkup and develop an action plan.”

○ Use holiday parties as a job-search networking opportunity.
Industry events are key, as are chamber of commerce holiday parties or annual meetings of various groups. Your partner’s or spouse’s holiday party is a great time to get out, shake hands with folks and hear what people are up to – and see what vacancies they might have.

○ Get out and volunteer while you’re in transition.
“You should not be job-seeking eight hours a day,” Levin says. “Get out and give to others that are in even more need than you. You’ll find inspiration from that.”

○ Reconnect with others by sending holiday cards.
Send quick personal notes to people you haven’t spoken to in a while, wish them a “Happy New Year” and see if they would like to get together in 2013. Don’t send a long, emotional note about being laid off. However, Levin says you can try something like: “After five great years, I’ve found myself in a transition in my career … .”

○ Be able to answer the question: What is your contribution to a company?
Most people don’t know the answer, according to Miles. Employers will want to know the depth of your knowledge and education – not just your degree, but your passion. Practice interviewing in front of the mirror or with a video camera, Miles suggests.

By Emily Mekinc
Editorial Assistant- Washington Business Journal